Girls Basketball

Ridgefield’s Success Rooted In Multi-Sport Athletes

Ridgefield’s Grace Goodwin (4), trying to get a rebound away from Stamford’s Andrea O’Connor, is one of four starters who will be playing a sport in college. (Photo: Austin Carfi)

After the Ridgefield girls basketball team’s 43-39 win over Stamford last night, both coach Tom DiMarzo and Caroline Curnal, one of his top starters, pointed to the team’s athleticism as its key asset.

Indeed, the Tigers’ ability to execute relentless pressure, even while using just seven players, was the biggest factor in ending the defending FCIAC and Class LL champion Black Knights’ 17-game winning streak.

The Tigers may be one of the most unique case studies in what has been a topical discussion: one-sport specialization versus the value of multi-sport athletes.

The subject took on further national exposure last week, when the New York Times ran this story of how the football programs at both Clemson and Ohio State prefer prospects that play more than one sport.

The debate continues to create friction within several FCIAC athletic departments, where some coaches, sometimes not so subtly, encourage their players to concentrate on one sport year-round.

DiMarzo would offer this year’s team as a refutation to the argument. Curnal, who scored 11 points against Stamford and has been a welcome addition this year to the starting lineup, might be the primary example. Curnal, a junior, has already given a verbal commitment to play lacrosse at Lafayette. She is coming off a breakout fall for the Ridgefield volleyball team, which ironically lost to Stamford in the state final in November.

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Curnal is not alone. In fact, Ridgefield has four starters who are committed to play three different sports in college, and four who played in state finals in the fall. Elizabeth Middlebrook, the star of the volleyball team, will play the sport next year at Colby College. Her twin sister Julia, the starting goalkeeper for the school’s girls soccer team, will continue with the sport next year at Bates. A fourth starter, Grace Goodwin, next year will be a member of the Holy Cross track team.

Ridgefield’s fifth starter, Meaghan O’Hara, is hoping to play basketball in college, while the first player off the bench, Claire Middlebrook, will almost certainly end up playing soccer in college.

It is hard to remember a basketball team that will be sending more players to compete at the next level.

There was actually concern about Ridgefield this season after the graduation of Rebecca Lawrence and Jess Camarda, its top two players, year-round basketball players who are now playing at the Division I level. They helped the Tigers win the FCIAC title two years ago.

Yesterday’s win put Ridgefield at 5-1 and solidified it as a legitimate title contender. The reason is the number of talented athletes DiMarzo has at his disposal.